14-year Anniversary

132We found ourselves celebrating our anniversary by getting take out from Tokkuri Tei on Kapahulu, then wining (one of us) and dining at Waikiki Beach. We arrived with about an hour of sun left in the sky. It was enough. The food was delicious, the Coke and wine were cold, and the company was the best. As I leaned over to pick up a piece of sushi only to have a clump of tobiko fall onto my thigh, I thought about how – if everything were “normal” – I might be instead clad in pants and Lynnette in a dress. I imagined the red gloss of her lipstick and the deliberate pacing of a fine dining experience. This is fine, I thought, as I picked up the tobiko and popped it into my mouth.

We would have gone to a new fine dining restaurant. It probably would have been bad form to take so many pictures over the course of the meal as I did on the beach. Maybe the trade-off would have been that Lynnette wouldn’t have had to repeatedly wave her slipper and bark in the direction of an audacious pigeon. Things would have been different, I am sure.

But there will be another time for all of that.

Like so many other moments in my life, the time and the place are only relevant because of Lynnette. It was just sushi. It was just Waikiki. But like everything else in my life, she elevates them in a way no one else in my life has ever been able to do so consistently. The salmon skin tofu salad tasted better on Saturday night because the first time I ever ate it, I was with her. The sunset, the rhythm of the waves, the salt in the air were only romantic – picturesque – because she was there.

4Happy Anniversary, Love.

 

Father’s Day 2020

Every year, Lynnette provides Madison with the same set of prompts regarding her view of me. It’s my favorite part of Father’s Day that’s evolved over time. At first, the whole enterprise was cute. This was before Madison could form thoughts that were her own. Over time, they morphed into “clever” and now I feel some of Mad’s answers bear an unmistakable tinge of shade. To my surprise, this year Lynnette added Cole and Avery to the mix:

1Madison crushed the first five questions but then went for a variation of a jokes she made last year about my penchant for wearing swim shorts when we’re not even swimming. It was a nice try, but it’s better that she learn this way that sequels are almost always inferior to the original and sometimes can miss as badly as this and The Rise of Skywalker. Mad makes a comeback with the mention of carbs as she’s making a not-so-subtle dig at my many, many failed attempts at sticking to a no/low carb diet. As usual, she’s not wrong. I’ve tried so many damned different types of impasta – lentil-based, edamame-based, zucchini-swirls, and all any of them do is make my stomach sore and emphasize to me how badly I took pasta-pasta for granted my entire life. The “secrets of sous vide-ing” is another solid, mild burn (but inside an airtight bag) that I respect. Then she gets to our summer with the last two answers to the prompts. I agree. Beach and MCU movies have carried the summer of 2020 so far. She deserves it. She made it through the 6th grade at Damien and a rough quarter of at-home schooling. We’re still locked in a blood feud, but we’re also both still alive, so…silver lining?

2See? Cole took me back to a time when reading these things were mostly cute. The blue and orange/8 shirt combo is correct but was more correct like 15 years ago, so maybe when he said that I was 30, that’s the version of me he was talking about. I don’t know how. Cole never met that guy. My favorite answer on this whole sheet is that I always tell him to “go sheesh”. We’d been potty training him for a while and he had advanced to the point where he could go number 2 on his own and wipe on his own. Oh, there were some speed bumps along the way – a few times Cole Boy sheepishly told me that I needed to get the Clorox wipes because there was “doo-doo cream” on the seat. When I asked how it got there, he hadn’t the slightest idea. Ironically, however, he was having a hard time going number 1 in time. He just couldn’t pull himself away from what he was doing quickly enough to avoid a little wetness in the bebs. I am so proud to say, however, that over the last two weeks, he’s avoided those wet bebs. I forget sometimes, that in so many ways, kids will be ready when they’re ready.

3When I got to Avery’s page, I laughed without reading a simple reply. I imagined Lynnette trying to ask the Gray all of these questions and getting straight-up ignored or answered with Avery’s stock fillers like “Kitty!” “Minute Moosh!” and the immortal “Give her pink, please!” When I read Avery’s answers, I smiled because Avery does something that I don’t quite understand but trips me out. Recently, she’s been narrating (that’s the best way I can put it) our trips out of the house. When we drive past the park on the way out and back in, for reasons unknown to us, she will shout “SWIM JACKET”. She’s only failed to say this twice all summer. When we pass the strip mall in Mauka, she says “rubbish” over and over as we pass the dumpster holding area. If she recognizes our location near one of her grandparents’ homes or our house, she’ll start shouting “HOUSE” in a way that intensifies and quickens the closer we get to the house, like this: HOUSE…HOUSE..HOUSE.HOUSEHOUSEHOUSE. On the way back home, she’ll call out our neighbor’s yellow car every time. Her memory for these things is impeccable, even if we aren’t quite sure what she’s getting at sometimes. She floors me.


This summer’s been admittedly a pretty daunting challenge. Since most things are still closed and/or still following “new normal” guidelines, it’s been a little more difficult for us to get to the stuff we usually do during this, the fairest time of the year.

Avery throws fewer out-and-out tantrums, but when she willfully objects to what’s going on, she’s much stronger and faster than she was even a few months ago. To her, it seems very much an attention-seeking game, but for the rest of us, there’s no longer any fun in trying to corral her.

Cole loves the Avengers but when he’s upset, he does this thing where he announces that he’s becoming the Hulk. His face darkens and he starts pulling at his shirt and shorts. He tells us that his “clothes are coming off like the Hulk”. He becomes uncooperative. When we tell him he can’t or ask him “please don’t”, he makes other hyperbolic statements like “I’m so mad I want to rip my face off!” or the one that made me laugh – to his frustration and anger – “I’m gonna take me knee out! I only want one knee!” It sounds comical, I know. And believe me, as it’s happening, sometimes it is. But he’s in this weird spot where it’s like he wants to be mad all the time and I’m worried because I didn’t hit that until high school.

Madison is 12 and so she would rather listen to and confide in her true father, the internet, rather than listen to me. Her entire aim in life is finding ways around or outright out of everything, which – yes, I know she’s 12 – would not be such a big deal if not for Avery and Cole. I can’t do everything. I need her but everything is an inconvenience to her.

All of this is to say I am some place new. I distinctly remember things getting easier as Madison got older, right up until the twins were born. I had hoped that things would begin to turn around at this point, but with everything going on in the world outside of our home, challenges I hadn’t anticipated have complicated things in ways I haven’t quite figured out yet. I think that part’s frustrating me also; I should be better at this by now. Like my athleticism, I can feel my effectiveness as a father waning. I think I am too impatient, quick-to-anger, authoring too many negative self-fulfilling prophecies.

 

4I don’t know if this an official phase of dadhood, I just know I’m here. No one wants to memorialize the rough times. But I am tonight. Because my deepest hope is that some time in the not-too-distant future, I will look back on this and remember how I felt in this moment so that I can appropriately appreciate how far I – we – have come. From here to there, then.

Beach on Repeat

123We went to Aweoweo Beach Park on Saturday to find peaceful water after a lengthy search for parking. The water was calm. Cole and Avery had a great time but Madison lamented the lack of action. She made no such complaints on Monday when the pathway through greenery opened up onto Kalama Beach. The water rolled in for some distance, creating nice shallow area before receding. Every so often, the waves broke with loud crashes. It was Lynnette’s turn to lament. “I wish the water was a calmer,” she said as we set up our little tent. “Let’s just see how they do,” I said. “Worst case, we can just chill right here in the shallows.” It never came to that.

Avery – who wore her trademark flamingo swim top for three straight days (she rocked it in the pool at Mama and Papa’s house on Sunday while I was at graduation) – has no time for shallow water. She wants to be in water deep enough for her to float in her jacket, do spins, and swim away from the people who love her. Despite some early hesitation because of the waves, by the end of the day, she was trying to rush the shorebreak on her own.

Lynnette and I were surprised by Cole. Normally, the guy likes to play on the sand and totally quits on the water the first time some of it gets on his face. Which, is kind of tough considering we’re at the beach. But on Monday, he was game all day. He kept telling me “I wanna go to the deep with you” and “I wanna fly like Iron Man!” When a wave smacked him in the face, he spat out water and laughed.

Monday was the best day I’ve had in a long time. We got into the lot exactly as another family was leaving. We picked out a nice spot along the treeline before things got crowded. Lynnette made the inspired decision to get lunch at Waiahole Poi Factory. We drove home without traffic and took a detour for shave ice before we made it home. The whole day felt like a cathartic release after the insane emotional roller coaster of the week prior; Monday was one long exhale.


We’ve been pretty good since everything shut down. Grocery stores and Walmart became our only outlets once the parks were shut down. We haven’t even had lunch at my parents’ house since March.  This weekend felt like a slice of the old normalcy before we settled into the new normal. I don’t know what I’m going to with the three kids during the week without Lynnette. Our usual playground options and Target/Walmart runs are off the table, so I don’t really know where we can go that won’t lead to social interaction or Avery running away from us. Today wasn’t super-encouraging. But we’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully, we’ll run into you this summer. We can exchange head-nods and maybe even forearm bashes. I’d really like that.

Hell’s Kitchen: It’s What’s for Dinner!

The quarantine has led to some unexpected turns in our house. While the additional time at home first found Lynnette in the kitchen baking the desserts to the delight of our family, she’s slowly shifted to more savory efforts. In the last two weeks, she’s made two types of risotto. While that might not seem particularly interesting, in our household, this dish has taken on a special meaning (and pronunciation of riz-AH-toe) because we’ve been binge watching Hell’s Kitchen.

It started innocently enough. Madison and I needed something to watch during breakfast and lunch during our stay-at-home schooling. Once we finished the Mentalist, I just clicked  few spaces over and started Hell’s Kitchen out of sheer boredom. We’re now in season 4 and calling each other “doughnuts” and “donkeys” but with terrible British accents.

1Lynnette takes an entire day to decide what she’s going to make for dinner. They say that when Michelangelo visualized what would become his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it took him 27 minutes, so you get what kind of lazy ass he was, and how incredibly intense Lynnette’s artistry can be.

My lovely wife begins her preparations by asking “What should I make for dinner?” out loud at the breakfast table, but she isn’t really talking to Madison or me. She’s talking to herself because only her mind can truly understand that question and possibly provide an answer. Over the course of the day, she searches the internet for ideas, recipes, reviews of the recipes, alterations to those recipes, and also when Fighting Eel is going to release their face masks. Once she settles on what she’s going to make, she checks to make sure we have all of the ingredients. If we don’t, she sometimes picks them up on the way home. If she’s already home, she might say “Can someone go get block parmesan cheese?” and Madison can’t drive. Other times, she asks me if I needed to go to Walmart today, because if I did, could I also stop by Times.

2Once the actual cooking starts, however, there is no shortage of help around the house. You might recall that my son decided a year or so ago that his life’s ambition is to become a pizza chef. The time we’ve spent in lockdown has broadened his cooking horizons, I think, as he’s helped Lynnette make smoothies, entrees, and desserts. He loves stirring but he also loves sticking his sticky boy hands in dry ingredients no matter how many times any/everyone tells him not to. He cannot help it. The sugar, the salt, they call to him like sirens dragging unsuspecting sailors to a watery grave. Look here at this picture of executive chef Lynnette and her stern countenance and rigid body language. Cole was so intimidated by the daunting task at hand that his shirt fell off.

4Because Madison was raised by the internet and her primary language is meme, she knew of Gordon Ramsay online before she watched a single episode of Hells’ Kitchen. As we rolled through the first season, she laughed extra-hard at some of the scenes and lines she recognized from those memes. The same thing happened when we watched Community. I used to think context was everything. Now maybe there is no context except for what an individual assigns. Man, that’s an entirely different post.

Anyway, Madison’s been the most faithful re-enactor of Hell’s Kitchen, shouting mild insults at no one in particular. She shouts “YES, CHEF!” when I say things like “hey, can you put Avery’s plate on the table?” and she’s begun referring to the island in the middle of our kitchen as the pass because that’s where we put the food after we’re done cooking it. It’s pretty hilarious, and I like that she and I have something other than Pokemon to bond over. Do I wish it was something more intellectual than swear words and insults? Sure. But I’m waiting until high school to force her into Shakespeare’s sonnets, so for now, this will have to do.

3I don’t know if I gained back all the weight I lost over the last 6 months of 2019, but if feels like it. It looks like it, too, but I keep telling myself it won’t look/feel so bad once I get a proper haircut, yeah, that’s it. I have only myself to blame, but it’s so damn hard when a beautiful woman saunters up to you with a thing of delicious food and in sultry says “Dinner’s ready, can you pour me a POG and vodka?” How and I supposed to turn that down?

Lynnette’s been a revelation in the kitchen and she’s made some of the best stuff she’s ever shared with me. She’s so much better looking than Chef Ramsay and she only yells at us about 70-75% as much as Gordon does at the contestants, so me and the kids have got that going for us. Honestly, the fluffy Japanese-style cheesecake she made a couple of weeks ago is already my second favorite dish (behind her oxtail stew) of hers. I know I’ve made jokes in this entry (and all the other ones) about her methods but the truth is, I kind of just get out of her way when she’s motivated like this week’s mushroom rizahtoe. It’s cool to watch her work. Besides, no good can come from me backseat-cooking, so I just sort of wait for whatever magic she pumps out as the smells of it waft through the living room.

Lynnette, the Quarantine Queen of Baking (but not tele-conferencing)

It’s been about 10 days since I checked in with an update from our lockdown. All of us are still alive but none of us like each other, except Lynnette and I have struck and unlikely alliance as adults. We don’t let the twins nap anymore, then Lynnette sets them down to sleep. By 8:30/9:00 Lynnette is back in bed and we’re watching Glow while sharing a vodka/pineapple juice/Sierra Mist. This is the middle adulthood I dreamed of – right up until I step on a rogue Lightning McQueen diecast car when I walk to the kitchen under the cover of darkness for a refill. Reality comes at you fast. Ka-chow.

1Madison’s first three weeks of at-home learning resulted in the worst academic performance submitted by a Higa since the first semester of my junior year of college. I can’t go into details because even thinking about sends me into a rage with the downside that I don’t turn into a huge, muscular, veiny, green rage monster so instead it’s just a pudgy, pasty 40-year old man waving his arms around frantically while asking rhetorical questions about the mechanics of Schoology, turning in work, and perhaps what the phrase “completed all your work” literally means rather than sort-of means. I’ll give credit where credit is due – Mad’s worked hard to improve her grades since then. I keep waiting for the moment she figures out that this stuff is kind of important and she kind of needs to do it, even if she would prefer not to.

2On some days, Avery is a couple of handfuls because she can’t get outside and expend her nearly limitless reserve of energy. She also struggles when she’s not allowed to appease her desire to climb things, jump off of them, fall down, then say “I’m OK” as she runs away in shame. The result, we found out, is that she gets rowdy when it’s time for bed.

In order to combat this trend, I’ve been spending time with her in the afternoons, right after Mama and Papa drop the twins off. She likes to be tickled, so she’ll ask “Where’s the beef?”, which is an allusion to what my family calls the wattle/neck area of a human. She wants so badly to play like this that I can basically ask her to do anything and she will do it. One day when we were playing together, she started gargling the saliva at the back of her throat. It didn’t sound like a cat, but I said “Awwww, Daddy’s Kitty!” She kept doing it and I couldn’t stop laughing. And so now, Avery associates cat noises with tickles and rattling saliva. Good job by me.

3Cole’s been handling the stay-at-home orders better than I thought he would. He hate the Coronavirus even though he doesn’t know what it is. All he knows is that when he asks to do something, we tell him we can’t; then when he asks why, we say “the ‘rona”. He wants it to be over so he can go to the playground, look for Cars, go to the pool and beach, and probably.

He’s struggling a bit with his potty training. He’s good to go number 2, but he’s still waiting too long too often for number 1. If you’re wondering if I am the kind of person to resort to saying things like “Remember in Cars when Doc tells Lightning not to wait?” then you’ll be delighted to know that I am. Of course I am. I would do just about anything to be able to pick my son up without fear of soggy bebs. “Doc never say that, dad. Doc said “scrape it off and do it over’.” He’s not wrong.

4Lynnette spent most of last week working from home. I was admittedly thrilled with the idea of being around her without the twins and maybe I tried to make it something like a second honeymoon even if Madison was sitting 2 chairs away in a Zoom session.

Because romance is dead (Lynnette killed it, chopped up its body, burned the pieces, mixed the ashes with water, froze the water, then placed tossed the cubes in different bodies of water so there was no chance they’d ever reconstitute), Lynnette did not take too kindly to my amorous overtures. “We’re supposed to be working!” she’d shout. “It’s lunch!” I’d reply. “Then let’s eat!” she’d volley. “Eat fast kine so we can cruise!” I’d quip. She would then eat slowly.

But it’s not all bad news. Last week when I was watching the draft, I could hear Lynnette’s teleconference going off in the background. I turned to look at her and she had her headphones on. “Why are your headphones on?” I said. She lifted one of the ear cover things. “Yeah, I can hear it,” she said. “Yeah, so can we,” I said. Her eyes narrowed. She reached for the earphone plug and found the end in her lap. She couldn’t stop laughing. “Couldn’t you hear the TV?” I asked. “Yeah, I just thought it was super-loud,” she said.

5Lynnette’s put her degree in Ghost Shrimpery on hold so she can pursue her life-long dream of being a dessert chef or baker or whatever hipster name such a skilled technician is called in 2020.

Her routine is fairly simple:

  1. At some point in the morning, she’ll say out loud “what do I want to bake?” She is not asking for input. It is merely the impetus for her to start thinking about baking.
  2. At some point around lunch, she’ll decide what she’s going to bake, then check if we have all the ingredients. If she doesn’t, she builds it into our weekend grocery run.
  3. By mid-afternoon, she’s cleared the island so as to use the surface as her own thing for the stuff bakers do with dough and flour.
  4. Cole and Madison typically help her with the prep process. Avery comes around when she can smell something good. Last night, the smell of raw cookie dough must have wafted through the house because Avery was in the kitchen repeating “I want cookie, please” before they were even in the oven.
  5. At some – possibly several – point(s) in Lynnette’s baking process, I will saunter into the kitchen and wrap my arms around Lynnette and utter some pun that ties her baking skills with her beauty, general hotness, or shapeliness. Then, Lynnette will roll her eyes, shake me off like one of those NBA Street special moves, and continue on with her baking. Truthfully, it kind of hurts the self-esteem. But then I understand that I am standing in the way of her culinary dreams, so I must do the gentlemanly thing of going away until the desserts are done.
  6. This is not really her, but then I will spend this time in exile thinking about the perfect pun/one-liner to drop when the baking is done. That way, when Lynnette gifts us with the sweet goodies, I can gift her with my carefully crafted compliment. It’s a fair trade, I think.

Lynnette Made Me Scones!

Lynnette is the kind of multi-tasker that I can’t understand. By nature, I am not a multi-tasker. I can only do my best work if I am focused on one thing and one thing alone. It’s why I can’t lose weight and get in shape. I could probably do one, but not the other, so why bother with either? Anyway, aside from pursuing her degree in Ghost Shrimpery, Lynnette’s also been bitten by the baking bug. She made me a box-plus birthday cake earlier this month, and ever since, she’s done that thing that she does where she asks questions out loud but isn’t really talking to any of us, or legitimately looking for feedback. These questions are rhetorical, they are apostrophes thrown out into the great void of the universe. The universe, however, never replies. But I do. “Blueberry cream cheese scones!” I said, repeatedly. Failing to come up with an answer to her own question, Lynnette finally relented.

1One of the coolest things about Cole is that he loves to help. Each time we’ve broken out a rarely-used kitchen appliance over the last 4 weeks, he magically appears in the kitchen. “What’s that?” he says, following with “I wanna help!” before anyone can answer the first question. He was assigned to the dry ingredients once again because it’s probably the best way to prevent him from making a total mess of himself and the kitchen. By process of elimination, that leaves Madison to work with the wet ingredients.

3To be fair, Mad’s not a huge step up from Cole. A month or two ago Madison heated up a tray of frozen mac and cheese in the microwave. Rather than use a pot holder or some other item to mitigate the heat of her meal, she attempted to carry the tray by the cardboard tabs. She nearly got to her seat before her mac and cheese got too hot for her. In in act of what I assume was self-preservation, she screamed, then hurled the thing of mac and cheese at the wall adjacent to the dinner table. The cheese sauce rained down on the wall and carpet like proverbial cats and dogs. It was a mess. I was furious. “What are you doing?” I shouted. “It was hot!” she screamed back. “Why didn’t you use a pot holder?” I yelled. Neither Madison nor the universe answered.

2I’ve read or heard somewhere that you should find a partner with skills and traits that complement your own. There’s so much inside of Lynnette that I don’t myself possess. There’s all of this attention to detail, steadiness, patience, and passion that I am completely devoid of. To watch her work – not only in the kitchen – is to witness someone brimming with confidence and technical skill. In same cases, it might be more of the former, but it’s that confidence that gives her the ability to seek out new things in the first place, and adjust if need be. It also explains why I eat the same four things at the same four restaurants. By the way, if you were wondering, the scones were not keto-friendly, and I have already (4 times) today paid the price for my lack of will power. Was it worth it? I’m not sure. Will I do it again? Absolutely.

4By the time the raw scones had been placed on the baking sheet, Cole had already been kicked off the kitchen team. The thing about Cole is he wants to help, but the second he gets there, his curiosity and instincts get the better of him. This time, he got in trouble for putting both his sticky, boy hands into the dry ingredients bowl. I admit that I felt some kinship with Cole Boy as I too, have been exiled from the kitchen for unnecessary kneading. He was somewhat disappointed, so he shifted to the role of “that guy who keeps asking when the food’s gonna be ready” for the rest of the night.

5Some have said that the best halo-halo comes from the fruits of one’s labor, and with all due respect for those some, I totally disagree. In fact, no food that I have made can ever taste as good as the food someone else has made. Lynnette added on a sugar glaze once the scones came out of the oven and polished off her watermelon margarita as a kind to commemorate her accomplishment. The scones were delicious and I am glad to have a few more tucked away in the fridge. While Lynnette’s new-found desire for baking is terrible for my waistline (and my lactose-intolerant insides), it has been nothing short of a revelation for my tongue. Next week when she asks the universe what to bake, I only hope to have a suggestion ready. Any help?

40 & 12

3In addition to the wonderful cake that Lynnette baked and composed for me, she also made the plans for the “party” that took place last night. She bought the decorations, picked up the dinner, and helped me move furniture around in the afternoon. That’s after she spent the day working from home. She is pictured here, with her furry assistant, probably looking up ways to swap out ingredients from a standard quarantine party to ones that would really make the party pop.

2We had our usual dinner of pizza. For those of you who are not not familiar with this tradition, it is as old as Madison. Older, in fact. On the night before Madison was born, Lynnette and I ordered pizza. While we waited for it to be delivered, Lynnette’s water broke. Eventually the pizza showed up, we had a slice each, then headed out to Kapiolani. Every year on our birthday, Madison and I pick what kind of pizza we want to eat. Soon after that, family and friends arrived in the Zoom session Lynnette created earlier in the day. Zoom – it’s how life works now. Anyway, I don’t want to oversell how awesome it was, but seeing those little rectangles pop up on the screen made my heart swell. Now I know how Captain American must have felt in that one amazing scene during the climax of Avengers: Endgame. My family, Lynnette’s family, my friends, and even some of Mad’s schoolmates signed on to sing Happy Birthday. Because of the lag – it was the worst BUT BEST! version of Happy Birthday we’ve ever heard. Madison made it a point to tell me this is why they aren’t playing during online band class – the timing makes it nearly impossible.

1After most of our family members left, my friends stuck around to talk story and take a few “birthday” shots. It was great to “see” them all in the middle of this crazy time, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was amused by how quickly glasses of alcohol seemed to materialize on screen once Daniel said “shots?” and held up his bottle. Even Cole Boy wanted to get in on the action, so he joined Papa and me with his own paper cup of water. IMOPpers! I cannot thank you guys enough for showing up and sticking around. I know we always say it, but maybe in these tough times it means more: we have to get together to do it for real once this is all over.

45640 feels exactly like 39 which felt exactly like 38 but when I look in the mirror, put on pants, or try to do anything remotely athletic, I know it doesn’t feel like 30. When I was 30, I already had a gut but my baby girl, my pork chop, my peach was only 2. There was no Cole, no Avery. Life was simpler. We could go outside.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t do anything big for your 40th,” Lynnette said in the middle of the Zoom session. “No way, this is awesome,” I said. “Besides, this is the only kind of rager I can afford,” I said, patting her on the shoulder. She smiled. Of course it is a bummer that we couldn’t have our traditional Higa cake and ice cream with my side of the family, or that we couldn’t meet up with Lynnette’s side of the family at her parents house, or that I couldn’t gorge myself on sushi, make jokes over drinks with the guys, spend the rest of the night hugging the toilet and the next morning in state of complete uselessness and inactivity. But it is what it is.

But that’s why I’ll always remember my 40th birthday – it was the one that best reflected all that we can do in trying times like these: our very best to help each other out. Thank you to all of you who dropped in to help my family celebrate. Perhaps it may have seemed like a scant few minutes of your time, but I promise you that it meant the world for Mad and me. I hope you are all safe, and I cannot wait to see you all again, for real.

From here to there, then-
Phil

Lynnette Made Me a Birthday Cake

1

Earlier in the week I told Lynnette that I didn’t want the usual ice cream cake. Instead, I just wanted a cake we could make at home. “Box cake?” she said, mildly offended. Cake that comes in boxes – and also wine that comes in boxes – is beneath her lofty standards. “Yeah, i guess,” I said. “Whatever you can make.” So we went to the store and bought the Funfetti cake mix (because I love birthday cake flavor!) and both cream cheese and vanilla frosting. Lynnette started making the cake Tuesday with the help of her favorite sous chef, Cole Boy. 

2

Lynnette swapped out some of the ingredients listed on the box for new ones after searching Google for things like “how do you make your box cake better” and “ingredients to improve box cake recipes” and “my uncultured swine of a husband wants a box cake for his birthday ugh how to I make it better so I don’t hate the entire thing how did I marry such an uncouth neanderthal”.

 

3

She split the mix into two pans in order to bake the two layers of the cake. For what it’s worth, this is probably the sexiest thing I’ve seen all quarantine. 

4

“You guys gonna much on some rounded tops?” Lynnette said. As soon as the words left her mouth, her shoulders sagged as she realized she had made the kind of innuendo I am famous for  – by mistake. I made big eyes at  her and tilted my head. She walked out of the kitchen and away from me. “But what about those rounded tops?” I asked. “THE CAKE HAS TO COOL DOWN FIRST” she shouted as she disappeared into the darkness of our bedroom, probably aghast at the thought that she married a box cake lover and maker of sophomoric puns. Well, my love, you win some, you lose some, and some times when you lose. the guy you married wins. That last sentence belongs in a fortune cookie.

5

Lynnette played the so-called rounded tops and Cole, Avery, Madison, and myself made quick work of them. Cole kept saying that it tasted like fresh cookies. Madison compared them to cinnamon rolls. Avery did not give her opinion but I assume she thought the cake was delicious because when I held out the first piece, she took a little nibble, then hopped away. A few minutes later, I held out another piece to her and she almost took my finger off. She sucked up the whole piece and didn’t even bother to thank me. Yeah, she pulled an Abby. “Cake!” she shouted. I gave her another piece and she smiled with full cheeks.

 

6

Lynnette used some of the frosting we got from the store for the layer of deliciousness between the two pieces of cake. As I am an idiot, I stood by as she completed this process, offering moral support in the form of making noises like “uhhhh” as she moved the pieces of cake, then “OHHHH!” when she landed the one piece atop the other. Look, I really miss baseball.

7

“I’m gonna make a crumb coat” Lynnette said as she spread the frosting over the surface of the cake. From what I gathered, this is the layer of frosting that serves as a kind of primer. It is meant to settle the crumbs or loose parts of the cake that might ruin the final coat of frosting later. This is one of Lynnette’s FAVORITE THINGS IN THE WORLD. She loves to learn the jargon or a field or hobby, then shoehorn the terms into conversation with me, just so I can ask her “what’s that?” so she can gleefully explain it to me. Sometimes I wish I was smarter than Lynnette, or at least had 3 degrees. Because I just want to know what her move would be then, you know? Dude, she’s going to be insufferable once she gets that Ghost Shrimpery degree. SMH.

8

Once Lynnette learned that she could make her own buttercream frosting from the things we already had in our house, there was no way she wasn’t going to make her own buttercream frosting from the things we already had in our house. She’s a marvel, really. She picks these things up so easily. I know she’s just a beginner but she has great instincts and her first attempts at things are rarely terrible. I, on the other hand, suck at just about everything. Lynette has a patience, an eye for detail, and a steady hand that I don’t possess at all. She muttered some version of “I’m gonna start baking as my side thing” between 10 and 212 times over the two days she spent making the cake. This is just the latest hobby she wants to make a career, after knitting cartoon characters and making hakus. What could she do if she had more time? Pretty much anything she put her mind to, I think.

9

This is right about the time I recorded her and said “Babe, the cake’s not even done and it’s way better than the one my ex-girlfriend made me.” She stopped mid-swipe and delivered her patented death glare. But before you think I am a complete idiot, you must know this is a joke/burn that goes all the way back to 2003. The fact that we both still make these stupid comments is amazing to me. We have a house. We have 3 kids. We share credit card debt. I’m not going anywhere, you know?

10

I bought Lynnette a set of frosting tips because Avery chewed her way through the original set we had. Lynnette made a few practice flower-things on a spoon, then declared herself ready to put them on the cake. She wasn’t ready. Her first three flowers were different sizes, shapes, and heights. “What about that saguaro over there?” I asked about a flower that was significantly taller than the rest. Lynnette shortened it with her finger. She went around the cake to practice her flower-making skills but she didn’t have enough frosting (or surface area) to perfect her skills this time. My lone job was to apply the sprinkles.

11

The irony of all of this is I didn’t even take a nice picture of the completed cake. We have it in front of us in a few family pictures, but we got caught up in the moment, sang Happy Birthday, blew out some candles, then ate the cake. It was delicious and probably I am going to spend my first night as a 40 year-old playing a game of thrones, filled with regret. But it was worth it. Lynnette, I am so grateful that you put your bias against box cake and ego on the side to make me this cake. I can’t really explain to you why I wanted it. It just seemed like it would be a nice change. It really was. You never cease to amaze me with all of the beautiful things you’re capable of on top of being a great wife and mother. Thank you for making my birthday special. I love you.

Lockdown Week 3: Big Shrimpin’

I hope this entry finds you and your family well. If this post helps at all – pulls you away from Tiger King or saves you from watching The Rise of Skywalker again, then I will consider that a roaring success.

I think the best/worst thing about this stay-at-home directive is how everyone in our family is just trying/doing stuff we never do because we have the time, but more importantly, we don’t have any better options. The other night Avery started doing headstands in her bedroom doorway and Lynnette was all “I wanna try that.” So she did. There’s something so endearing about seeing your wife of nearly 14 years with her t-shirt tucked into her athletic shorts so she can flip herself up against the wall before steadying herself into a true headstand. It’s like just when I thought that she could possibly do anything stupider than marrying me, she waits almost 14 years to bust that out. An all-time long con, if you ask me. Then the 3 kids got into the act and all three of them were inverting themselves against the baby gate at the top of the stairs. Lynnette’s baked a bunch of desserts, and judging by the dearth of baking materials in grocery stores, it seems she’s not alone. I got so bored that I started working out at the end my school days. That’s right. I put shoes on, move the car out of the garage and bang out a 30-minute workout. I know I’m bored because if you told me I would have had to do two things before even starting to work out, I would have passed. But it’s that or eat. And well, I’m already eating, so I gotta even it out somehow.

5Aside from her breathtaking exhibitions of athleticism, Lynnette’s made use of the additional free time to work on her third degree – a Masters in Ghost Shrimpery. This morning one of our shrimp gave birth to a bunch of microscopic offspring. Madison texted Lynnette and when Mem arrived home, she had with her a new faux coral tank decoration and a bag of java moss. Lynnette’s 3-credit online class taught her that the baby shrimp will be alright among large creatures so long as they have a place to hide. This, it would seem, is the function of the java moss. If you should somehow run into Lynnette (online, I suppose), please don’t ask her about her the Ghost Shrimpery degree. She’s not one to count chickens – well, in this case, shrimp – before they hatch. When she does earn that degree, we’ll have a party over Zoom. You can Venmo her a gift if you’d like.

OK, but seriously, Lynnette’s been spreading herself pretty thin given the current medical emergency that’s gripped the world. She’s still responsible for doing all of her normal work in the community, but she and other Public Health Nurses have been called to take on added responsibilities in this tumultuous time. She works at the State Lab, but also works from home, making herself available via computer and phone. And, she’s basically a stay-at-home Mem, too. All of this is to say that Lynnette continues to defend the title of World’s Greatest Wife/Mom that she’s held in some form or another since 2006. It’s why even though I’m sure we can afford it, I’m OK with her pursuing the Masters in Ghost Shrimpery.

4I think I’ve logged more time at this desk in the last week than I had all of 2019. As mentioned in my last post, I’m trying to figure out how/when I’m going to compensate for the lost grading time, but I think that’s a fair trade-off for waking up 2 hours later than I usually would, no commute, and the stack of untouched dress pants in my closet.

I don’t think that I’ve really done anything out of the extraordinary aside from moving through The Mentalist series on Amazon Prime (no spoilers, I’m in the second-to-last season). There’s that and the fact that I finally got around to checking out Spotify. I haven’t really explored it yet, but I like that I can just listen to albums in their entirety while I work. Today I got through Incubus’s Make Yourself and Morning View while grading essays and other assignments. Tame Impala is the newest music I’ve listened to and enjoyed but that’s about it. I don’t love it. I can’t love it. I’m 39 and it didn’t come out in 1996. Alas.

1Madison’s been working in the kitchen during the day and in her room in the afternoons. She has to move to her room once the twins come home for the obvious reasons. She’s seems to have taken to it pretty well. She video conferences with her classmates during lunch and they all look like they’re watching or filming Tik Tok videos or something. The highlight of the week came during one of my off periods today. I was moving a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer and telling Lynnette that I had washed her sheets and blanket, but she and I were talking in this stupid accent we speak to each other in. About 3 lines in, Madison snapped “YOU GUYS, I’M NOT ON MUTE!” I whisper-laughed doubled over in front of the washing machine. I’m an idiot. I’M A TEACHER. What was I thinking? I couldn’t stop laughing and I turned to look at Mad and she shook her head while wearing a look of disdain that I could only describe as the exact same face I throw at her when I check to see if her room is clean.

32From 7 AM to 3 PM, Cole and Avery attend Mama and Papa’s school. Lynnette and I have not taken the tour or visited during school hours, but based on the social media material, the curriculum involves a lot of snacks, jumping onto/off of things, some water play, snacks, car rides, running around in the yard, lunch, snacks, and playtime with toys and the trampoline.

I give Mama and Papa credit because ordinarily, they’d just have Cole since Avery would be in school. But now they’ve got both of them, which isn’t twice as hard, it’s like 6-8 times as hard because Avery is a honey badger.

Tonight at dinner we used the last of our Christmas gift cards to get CPK. The resident honey badger ate the chips, but only the chips which were perfectly triangular in shape. She inspected each chip she touched for unbroken corners, crisp edges, and not too much of a bend. Any chips that did not meet her rigorous standards were rejected and therefore assigned to the rest of us. I too bent out of shape about Avery’s peculiarities because I’ve been married to Lynnette for nearly 14 years and I am conditioned to handle such behavior. This very thought crossed my mind as I scraped my half-chip into the spinach artichoke dip and a smirk formed on my lips.

I take it back. The biggest thing the downtime has given me is some time to think. And some time to write. I can’t remember the last time I wrote two blog entries in the span of a week. I don’t want to shout I’M BACK, BABY because I too, don’t like to count shrimp before they’re hatched. But things look pretty good for the time being. Stay safe and take care of each other.

The End of Spring Break 2020/The Start of ???

Well, I’ve spent the past week trying to retrofit my plans for the 4th quarter for online learning. My one sentence summary, so far: it feels like more work than actually being in the classroom with my students. It’s been challenging. It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel; it’s closer to taking a wheel I’ve already built and used with success and figuring out how to adjust it, so as to affix it to a completely different vehicle in hopes of avoiding a fiery wreck. Some hyperbole, sure. But I suck at technology.

1

What a time to be alive.

Two weeks ago, I had nver heard of Zoom, the video conferencing software we’re going to use as the main vessel for our online learning. Now, it’s basically how I connect with people outside the walls of my home. We synced up with my parents on Saturday night, and when I saw the faces of my mom and dad, I chuckled. Admittedly, I had never imagined that there would be a scenario which would force my parents into video conferencing. But I suppose something like 3 weeks away from their grandchildren is a pretty strong motivator. I watched as my family (including Abby) huddled around the computer. Cole was pumped to show off his Lightning McQueen tattoo. Avery was mostly quiet but she did quietly mutter the names of the people who appeared on the screen, including her best friend and kindred troublemaker Uncle Matty. Madison was mostly irritated by having to share the space with her brother and sister. We’ll probably go with this for the foreseeable future. It’s not like there are other options.

2

I still say we should have just pushed him down the stairs in the basket.

I’m not going to pretend that we stayed at home every minute of every day. We made grocery runs and food runs and drives to get the kids out of the house. Cole and Avery haven’t seen the inside of any place not our house or Mama’s and Papa’s in two weeks or so. Mostly, though, we’ve stayed inside and have tried to take quick walks around the neighborhood. One of these outings ended with Cole telling me he “didn’t want to learn to catch better”. Another ended at the exact moment Avery started to explore the space farther than 10 feet away from us. Once she starts getting brave like that, we’ve gotta shut it down and walk it home, otherwise there’s no telling how far she gets before Lynnette or I catch up to her.

Indoors, it’s been more of the same stuff. Cole is preoccupied with his deep Cars collection. Avery climbs things (including members of her family) and jumps off of them. Her ABA therapy sessions have been suspended and we can’t go to playgrounds, so it’s been a little tricky helping her get the exercise/physical activity she needs. That’s been something I’ve tried to help her with by engaging in tickling, chase, and wrestling sessions. Madison’s been watching movies on television or videos on her phone. She’s read a little and has generally bounced back well from having her Mexican cruise cancelled. Lynnette’s spent about as much time with us as she usually does, but without the diversions of Target, the splash pad, the playground, the pool, the beach, etc. That means Cole – but especially Avery – have been extra-clingy with Mem over the past week. Lynnette’s a super-mom, so she’s been up to the challenge including today, when she ran POV Disney World ride videos and had Cole set up to “ride” them. I watched her shift him left, right, up, down, and all around for two straight rides. Madison sprayed Cole with water on Splash Mountain. This led to one of the best quotes of the week. After the second ride concluded, I urged Cole to give Lynnette a break, but Cole asked for another ride. A beat passed. “Oh, I can do the monorail,” Lynnette said. I laughed and so did Lynnette. Finally, I can’t be certain, but I’m convinced Abby is sick and tired of us.

3

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home (office).

I’ve ironed my shirts. I’ve tweaked assignments. I’ve practiced with Zoom. I’ll make adjustments as needed. The thing I’m most concerned about is grading. It’s the only thing that I can’t quite anticipate. I usually work from 5:45-7:45 in the morning, during my long breaks, and at McDonald’s at night if necessary. But since we’re adjusting the schedule, I won’t have those long breaks, and McDonald’s is closed. I don’t know when/where I’m going to get that time back. Two weeks ago, I tried grading at home while the kids were around and it did not go super-well. I could hear them running, Madison and Cole fighting, and Lynnette scolding them. All those jokes I made about Mililani Mauka McDonald’s being my office, “Mililani’s Hottest Club” – I regret them deeply because they were true. I miss my corner table.

Usually, the fourth quarter is the best. It’s 7 weeks or so of class with my beloved seniors mixed with ILH and MLB baseball. It’s AP exams and prom and finals and baccalaureate and graduation. This time, it’s not any of those things. I had taken these things for granted – them and everything else in my life that like clockwork tells me that summer is on its way. There’s only uncertainty. And trying our best.